Friday, March 9, 2018

Vancouver 7s: Can The Eagles Win Another Cup?

How do the Eagles 7s top last week? Simple: win this week. It's going to be hard for the Eagles to replicate the magic they had in Vegas last weekend. They were simply playing at another level egged on by a boisterous home crowd. There is naturally going to be a let down. Every team on the Series seems to go through one sooner or later. If you look at how often one team repeats as champion in the second week of a back to back you realize that it's rare. However, that is in no way to say that the Eagles can't do it this week. It's not like they are suddenly going to stop playing good rugby. It's also not as if they have had to travel very far either. As things stand the Eagles are going to be set up for another deep run.

That said, fans should realize that it won't take another tournament win to be a successful. Absolutely winning is their goal and they need to be considered one of the contenders. At the same time given their up and down form on the season so far putting in another top four finish would be a huge boost to the team and depending on other results might put them in a good spot in the standings. Expect them to come out charging but maybe not have things go as smoothly as last week.

Take the jump to read more.
The tournament in Vancouver starts at 12:30 p.m. et/9:30 a.m. pt on Saturday and can be seen on ESPN3/WatchESPN.

The Team

Head coach Mike Friday has been forced to make two changes to his team. Maka Unufe and Joe Schroeder are both out with injuries. In their place are Brett Thompson and Nick Boyer. Thompson's return is quite an achievement for a player that has battled numerous injuries over the last few years. When healthy he was phenomenal and can be a big boost to the team. At the same time the U.S. is really going to miss the dynamism of Unufe. When on he is often the U.S.'s best player and that is saying something.

Squad: Perry Baker, Danny Barrett, Nick Boyer, Martin Iosefo, Carlin Isles, Malon Al-Jiboori, Matai Leuta, Chris Mattina, Cody Melphy, Folau Niua, Ben Pinkelman (C), Brett Thompson, Kevon Williams

The Opponents

Uruguay (3:04 p.m. et/12:04 p.m. pt): Uruguay are playing on the Series for the second week in a row. They lost all five of their matches last week but were competitive at times. This is a match the Eagles should win handily and if they don't the warning bells should go off. 

Canada (6:56 p.m. et/3:56 p.m. pt): It hasn't been the best year for Canada so far but they are playing at home where they expect to get the same kind of lift the Eagles got last week. You know the players will be wanting to show well in front of the home crowd and this will be a tough match for the Eagles. That said, the U.S. should win this match and they've had the better of Canada recently. 

Australia (10:08 p.m. et/7:08 p.m. pt): They meet again. The U.S. and Australia have tangled several times this season with some good matches. However, the last couple of matches have gone in favor of the U.S. by a wide margin. That will be hard to sustain against an Australia team. The first few minutes are going to say who wins this one. 

The Takeaway

The Eagles can repeat in Vancouver but fans should think it's automatic or even expected. Absolutely the team expects it of themselves but reality, for any team on the Series really, dictates that it is very hard to repeat as champion. With that in mind we still think the Eagles do well. Making the top eight is a minimum.  They should have that accomplished before they even take on Australia. Then, we think they could easily make it in the top four once again. Teams were able to focus in on Perry Baker early in the year and shut down a lot of what he is doing but the Eagles have made adjustments and Baker is off and running. When he's doing that the Eagles always feel like they are going to win. 

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